Learning the Gender of Nouns

The genders of French nouns are hard to guess, when you learn a new noun, don’t forget to learn its gender. This why you should always learn the noun with its article : le cahier (the notebook) ; la maison (the house).  Gender of nouns starting with a vowel need to be memorized separately: l’âge (m.) (age) ; l’horloge (f.) (the clock). Fortunately, several rules can help you guess if a French noun is masculine or feminine :

1 – Nouns that refer to males are usually masculine, nouns that refer to females are usually feminine :  l’homme (m.) (the man) ; la femme (f.) (the woman). 

2 – The ending of a noun can be a clue to its gender. For example :

masculine endings 

-eau le bureau (the office or the desk) ; le château (the castle)

-isme le tourisme (tourism)

-mentle département (the department) ; le parlement (the parliament)

feminine endings

-ence l’absence (absence) ; l’innocence (innocence)

-éeune poupée (a doll)

-ie la tragédie (tragedy)

-ion la nation (the nation) ; la prononciation (pronunciation)

-té l’université (university)

-urela littérature (literature)

Watch out for exceptionsl’eau (f.) (water) ; la peau (skin) ; le silence (silence).


3 – Nouns adopted from other language are usually masculine : le footballle jazzle tennis.


4 – Some nouns referring to people indicate gender by their ending. The feminine form usually ends in -e :

l’Allemand (m.) l’Allemande (f.)  the German 

l’Américain (m.) l’Américaine (f.)  the American

le Français (m.) la Française (f.)  the French

l’ami (m.) l’amie (f.)  the friend

le voisin (m.) la voisine (f.)  the neighbor

Note that final dn and are silent in the masculine form, as in the examples above. When followed by -e in the feminine form dn and are pronounced.


5 – Some nouns that end in -e and the names of some professions have only one singular form, used to refer to both males and females. In this case, the article remains the same whether the actual person is male or female :

l’auteur (m.)  the author

l’écrivain (m.)  the writer

le médecin  the doctor 

la personne  the person

le professeur  the teacher / professor


6 – For certain nouns referring to people, the gender of the individual is sometimes indicated by the article alone. Such nouns most often end in -e, in this case, the spelling of the noun does not change when the gender changes :

le camarade (m.) la camarade (f.)  the classmate 

le journaliste (m.) la journaliste (f.)  the journalist

le secrétaire (m.) la secrétaire (f.)  the secretary

le touriste (m.) la touriste (f.)  the tourist